Chris and I have recently put Lorelei's behavior (or, as I prefer to call it, self-regulation) on project status, which pretty much comes down to me reading everything I can on raising little people, sifting it through my brain and pondering way too much, and then telling Chris what to do so he doesn't screw up what I'm trying to do.

Good news: We're seeing some really, really good results! I mean, I chased Lorelei down the street TWICE this week (barefoot, my hair half blow-dried), but this morning? Her hand rested on the door knob. She thought twice. And retreated.

I won't go into the ins and outs of how we're working to discipline Lorelei into managing her own behavior--in short, getting rid of tantrums, disobedience, outbursts. For starters, I don't want a lecture on how "parents these days" are too lenient with their kids. Also, what we're doing is working at the moment, and I don't want anyone trying to push me out my lane now that I'm finally getting somewhere. See, my real interest is not in CONTROLLING her (because, good luck with that) but equipping her to CONTROL HERSELF.

I'm optimistic. The spirited, wacky, full-of-love girl is in there! And we're getting to see so much more of her instead of her contrary behavior.

It's a lot of work for all of us. But a big fat epiphany came this week. The other morning, I was trying to get the girls off to school and myself to work. As I put lunches together, Charlotte and Lorelei squabbled over a page of stickers. I ignored it, truly not giving a crap about their spat and not really having the time for them to talk the whole damn thing out. Lorelei tried to take the sticker sheet from her sister and a tiny rip resulted. Charlotte's face contorted as prepared to wail.

"I'm sorry!" Lorelei said. "I'm sorry, Charlotte!"

Charlotte was unforgiving and harrumphed meanly and turned her back on her sister. Before I could swoop in and tell Lorelei that her sister is peeved and to just give her some space (the full extent of the refereeing I was willing to do rather than have them talk it out for three hours), my Lorelei? My sweet, beloved Lorelei? She balled her little fists and stamped her little foot and said, "Ohhhhh! I always make mistakes!"

My world stopped.

I dropped my peanut butter knife mid-spread and scooped that child into my arms. I have always feared that Lorelei sees herself as "the bad one." But I have always, always believed that she wants to be good. She couldn't have confirmed it any more bluntly.

I shooed Charlotte out the door to the bus stop. Then I suggested I brush Lorelei's hair outside on the deck. It was a gorgeous morning, and we both needed some air. I brushed her hair. Then I turned her around and looked that girl in the eye.

"You are a good girl."

She didn't look like she believed me.

"You are a good girl, and yes, you make mistakes. That's part of growing up. Everyone makes mistakes. Charlotte makes mistakes. I make mistakes. Daddy makes mistakes."

"Daddy doesn't make mistakes," Lorelei said.

"Oh, yes he does!" I said, a bit too emphatically. "But when you made a mistake tearing the sticker sheet? You did the right thing. You said you were sorry. That was a really big-girl thing to do."

She perked up.

I spent a few more minutes assuring my Lorelei that she was good and loved and precious and, yes, prone to mistakes--just like we all are. My girl is very physical--it's how she best shows and receives love, a fact that brings me no end of joy--so a good cuddle and some tight hugs later, I was confident she got the point.

I'm very grateful she had the verbal ability and presence of mind to say what her frustration was: "Oh, I always make mistakes!" Don't get me wrong--the self-loathing that came along with it broke my heart, but here was my wide-open chance to get to the heart of what can make her be so difficult!

Because grown-ups are no different. Aside from narcissistic fools who may or may not be president (at the moment), don't we all do exactly what Lorelei did when we make mistakes? Don't we hate it? Don't we also think to ourselves, Ack! Why do I yell at the kids when I know I shouldn't?! Why do I deliver that one-liner I know will piss off Chris? Why do I, why do I, why do I . . .?!

We do it because we're human, duh. Kids and grown-ups alike.

Which is why I apologize to my kids. I don't believe in feigning all-knowing moral superiority over my children. They're not stupid. And how can I expect them to acknowledge their screw-ups if I don't acknowledge my own?

I hate doing it, because I hate being wrong. And at first I worried that I'd lose my credibility with my girls if I apologized to them, especially for the same thing over and over (yelling, in case you're wondering). Wouldn't it disrupt their foundation of trust to find out their parents are not gods? I dunno, but my view is that they will find it much more comforting to know that their mother is aware of her shortcomings than not. I can't think of anything that would be more frustrating to my children than to blindly barrel ahead, stubbornly unrepentant.

Or think about it like this: When Chris apologizes to me for something, my massive relief is not that I'm right (well, okay, that's part of it) but that he really does have the character I thought, he really is the guy I want to have my wagon hitched to! Oh, hooray, everything is okay!

Mistakes and apologies. There is so much I learn from my little Lorelei, every single day. I love her so.


  1. One hundred percent brilliant.
    So proud of your commitment and hardwork. ♡


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